An emotional Doug Armstrong, often fighting back tears, met with the media today in St. Louis after firing head coach Ken Hitchcock.
“It’s really hard,” said Armstrong. “Ken’s probably my best friend.”
But as general manager, Armstrong felt a change was needed to jolt his Blues back into form. Mike Yeo will take over behind the bench, ahead of schedule from the original plan.
This was clearly not a move that Armstrong wanted to make at this point in time, and he did not back away from criticizing himself — “I’m the manager. … It’s my team” — or his players.
“We’ve let our group become independent contractors,” he said. “One of the things I’ve learned about being around St. Louis is the Cardinals. They don’t have independent contractors. When they do, they get rid of them.”
Armstrong continued, “When you see independent contracting going on on the ice, whether you’re a fan or not, it’s easy to see. And what we have to do is, we have to become a team again. We have to take pride in doing things for each other, for the betterment of the team.”
“We need to start playing together,” said Yeo. “Whether it’s when we have the puck, whether it’s when we don’t have the puck, we have to start playing as a five-man unit on the ice. I think that starts in our own zone. It’s how we defend.
“We want to be a team that’s structured, but we want to defend quickly, we want to defend aggressively, and with that, I think what we’ll see is us having the ability to showcase our speed and our ability to get to the offensive zone and on the attack a bit quicker.”
Of course, there’s no denying that Allen has struggled badly since becoming the Blues’ No. 1 netminder. So, in addition to firing Hitchcock, the Blues also fired goalie coach Jim Corsi. For the rest of the season, Martin Brodeur and Ty Conklin will take over that job together.
Looking ahead, Armstrong expects his team to be playing into the spring.
“I think this is a playoff team,” he said. “I’m expecting this team to make the playoffs, so this change was made because I believe we’re not performing to the capabilities that we should.”
And Hitchcock’s future?
“If he wants to coach, teams would be crazy not to call him,” said Armstrong. “He’s today’s Scotty Bowman. He’s a hell of a hockey mind and a hell of a coach.”